Taking a team that had finished at Under-21 level and were heading for Amateur Football was a prospect which appealed to STEPHEN CONNELLY and ARTHURLIE AMATEURS. Sadly, they were left kicking their heels on the sidelines when I conducted THE BIG INTERVIEW on October 21. Stephen’s comments were a top-viewing stats winner upon publication! Many of them are still applicable as we head towards the end of 2020.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITH THE TEAM AND WHO ELSE IS INVOLVED?
A. I am part of the management team, alongside Sean MacNeil and Gerry Strain. Greig McIlreavy is the Secretary of the team.
Q. THIS WILL BE YOUR FIRST SEASON IN THE AMATEURS. WHERE DID THE SET-UP PREVIOUSLY OPERATE?
A. The team has been developing and evolving throughout the youth age groups in the Paisley and Johnstone District Youth League – right through to 11-aside football at under-21s (in the West of Scotland Youth League). It was at under-19s level that the team became part of the Arthurlie set-up. We arrive in the Amateur ranks on the back of three seasons at Under-21 level.
Q. HAS THE TEAM WON SILVERWARE?
A. At under-19 level, the team won the PJDYFL League Cup, with a penalty shoot-out success in the final against Benburb.
And not quite silverware, but in our first season at Under-21s, a promotion to the Premier League and a Scottish Youth FA Cup Final appearance counted towards a successful season m and one that holds a lot of happy memories.
Winning is obviously the best way to mark success, but the team has played a big part in the development of players, who have gone on to play at 1st team level – including at Arthurlie, and we are delighted to have been able to give them that platform.
Q. HOW HAS THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS BEEN DURING COVID-19?
A. The recruitment process has been very positive. Unlike at Under-21, there are no age restrictions and we’ve been able to take a more “all in” approach to recruiting.
After signing a number of last season’s Under-21 squad, we have also been able to add quality and experience in all areas of the pitch, with boys who had been involved here previously, and players with experience in the SAFL and other Amateur Leagues.
For a Youth team taking the step into the Amateurs, it was always going to be important to add some players with experience of that level , and try to get the right balance in the squad.
The biggest frustration has probably been that we haven’t been able to get a good run at it as yet due to the restrictions and because of that, there are still a few loose ends to be tied up in terms of the squad, when we do return.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR AIMS AND AMBITIONS MOVING FORWARD?
A. The biggest ambition just now is to get the boys back out on the pitch, but unfortunately we aren’t in control of that. We can only look to follow the protocols that are in place for all teams, if our level of the game is afforded the opportunity again.
In terms of the season, we want to make an instant impact on the SAFL. (Scottish Amateur Football League).
The league is scheduled to start with the Centenary Cup Sections and we will come up against teams from the division above ours. We want to be as competitive as possible in these games and if we are, then we have quality that will hurt teams and cause one or two surprises.
As a new team, we enter into the Premier Two Division. The hope of the league is that we can play at least one round of league fixtures in the new year. We have built a squad, with promotion in mind and that is our main aim, should the league season start.
Despite the 1st team being forced to withdraw from this season due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the whole set-up at Arthurlie is in a very good place just now, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Development team and 1st team management to maximise the potential of the set-up and also give players the opportunity to progress at the club.